Van Rates Edge Down, Then Bounce Back Up

Load availability was slightly lower last week for vans and flatbeds, but load-to-truck ratios rose because there were fewer trucks. Rates slipped 1¢ lower for vans and reefers, but they’re recovering already, due to tighter capacity and an increase in the fuel surcharge. California is improving for vans and reefers, and you can always find a load in Texas, although outbound rates remain low in the Lone Star State.

Texas and California are Hot States for vans this week, as demand increases all across the Southern band of states. Rates are trending up in Stockton, CA and Buffalo, NY. There are lots of loads in Atlanta, but rates are moving down. Chicago van freight has been weak this spring, and it’s not improving yet.

Reefer rates lost another 1¢ per mile last week, as a national average, but that’s part of a seasonal transition. Atlanta and Lakeland, FL are still the top two markets for outbound reefer loads, and rates rose out of Miami last week due to avocado harvests. California fruit and vegetables are ripening, and rates are trending up in Sacramento and Ontario. Load-to-truck ratios climbed in the Southern band of states, as demand increased from Georgia west to Arizona, and rates can be expected to follow, perhaps as soon as this week.

Demand remains strong for flatbeds, especially in the Southeast, South Central, Pacific Northwest and Northern Mountain states. The national average rate held steady for flatbeds for three consecutive weeks, but then rates rose 1¢ to $1.92 per mile early this week, due to a change in the fuel surcharge.


Atlanta and Houston are the number one and number two easiest places to find loads this week on DAT load boards, but rates are not great, especially in Houston. You can do better with a TriHaul. Take a load from Atlanta to Houston, for $1.58/mile, but instead of getting a load straight back to Atlanta at $1.18, look for a load to another city. Try St. Louis, or Cape Girardeau, MO, 120 miles to the south. Cape Girardeau is actually a Hot Market these days, with a load-to-truck ratio of 4.8, almost 3X the national average. A TriHaul from Atlanta to Houston, then to Cape Girardeau and back to Atlanta, gives you almost 2,000 loaded miles instead of 1,600, and the rate for the return trip goes from $1.38 to an average of $1.65 per mile. You end up with more than $3,100, total.

Daily maps, along with detailed information on demand, capacity and rates for individual markets and lanes, can be found in the DAT Power load board. Rates are derived from actual rate agreements and contracts, as reported in DAT RateView.